Cristiano Ronaldo has indicated that he believes he could be playing again by the end of this month. The Portuguese winger underwent ankle surgery in July and initial forecasts were that he could be out of action until late October and possibly November.
But the player, whose 42 goals last season were instrumental in taking United to the Premier League title and Champions League, has been told to step up his rehabilitation after making progress that was better than expected.
"I am feeling fine – I am feeling really good and my recovery is going well," Ronaldo said. "I am more than happy with my progress and I hope to be back playing for United by the end of September – that is my target and it is a realistic one. It has been frustrating to miss the start of the Premier League season but I am pleased with my rehabilitation and, hopefully, I'll be ready soon."
Though Sir Alex Ferguson's prognosis had mirrored the player's, Ronaldo's own prediction could see him ready for the Champions League game at Aalborg, Denmark, on 30 September or else for the trip to Ewood Park on 4 October. His return cannot come soon enough considering the flat start to the campaign which saw United lose 2-1 to Zenit St Petersburg in Monaco in the Super Cup on Friday.
Ferguson also hopes to have Michael Carrick fit and available for United's Champions League group stage opener against Villarreal. He is expected to continue his progress from an ankle injury over the international break and put himself in line for a date with the Spanish side.
A United player heading in the opposite direction if his club's move for Dimitar Berbatov proves successful today could be the striker Fraizer Campbell, after the Hull chairman, Paul Duffen, tabled a bid of £7m for the 20-year-old who spent seven months on loan at Hull last season and scored 15 League goals as they gained promotion to the Premier League.
Campbell was in United's squad against Zenit on Friday but Duffen is aware that the Berbatov talks hold the key. "The complexities of their situation are that it depends on them getting one in – that one might well be Bulgarian," Duffen said. "As I said all the way through the summer we need to be respectful of that and there's nothing I can do to force the situation."
Meanwhile, any hopes Everton harboured of Henrik Larsson joining them were in tatters last night when the former Celtic player decided to stay with Helsingborgs.
Helsingborgs had triggered interest when they initially put Larsson up for sale before the weekend. But he is staying put. His agent, Rob Jansen, said: "There was interest from England but Henrik has decided to stay with Helsingborgs and the club are now happy to keep him.
"He's out of contract in January and available on a free transfer, so will pick up his career from there." Larsson scored 173 goals in seven prolific years at Celtic.